The Curse of Complacency

Often RMA’s counsel to nonprofit clients is about trying to help executive directors, board members, and development professionals juggle the immense demands of their roles. Our lives are rushed and often frantic, too frequently driven by emergencies instead of long-term goals. We have to learn when to manage and when to lead, when to speak and when to listen, and when to follow and when to guide, all in the course of a day’s work.

The other end of the spectrum? Ironically, there is a danger in mastering your job so well that you can ease up on the goals and the deadlines and the growth. The risk of being too comfortable in your job is that you become complacent.

Notice how many “yes” answers you give to this complacency checklist:

Given any chance, you are happy to recruit and hire your friends.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

Your network hasn’t changed appreciably in the last three years.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

When you look around your organization, there is little diversity–not simply ethnicity or culturally but also not in age, gender, experience, disability challenges, perspective, or faith tradition.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

When you are developing an idea, you like to start with last year’s version and hit “save as.”
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

Your board terms largely coincide (i.e., not a balanced three-part mix of mature members, those in place 1-2 years, and new people).
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

You can’t remember the last time you acted on a *crazy* idea.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

You’re postponing a difficult conversation with a board member, other volunteer, or staff member because you are waiting for the right time.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

This month, you’re essentially doing what you did in April 2010. And April 2009.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

You’re delighted at how non-confrontational your staff meetings are.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

Your board meetings are really, really short.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

You’re waiting for the fad of social media to pass.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

You’re postponing evaluations of programs and/or people because things are going fine.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

You don’t spend time on a newsletter or e-blast–and you don’t blog–because people seem to understand your mission and progress already.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

You’re confident and unafraid, 365 days a year.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

You are managing to the same kinds of guidelines or operating standards that you used in 2005.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

You keep referring to the economy as if it were surely going to bounce back to ‘normal’ soon.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

Meanwhile, you’re happy to use the weak economy as an excuse for flat numbers.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

Your idea of good media relations is staying out of the paper or off the air.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

You used to have a bona fide contrarian on your board or staff . . . but that person left.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

When you think about what you are most proud of, it’s always something from the past, not the present.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

You are amazed at how little preparation your board meetings take.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

Your favorite mission anecdote is a story from before 2002.
[   ] YES  [   ] NO

1 Comment

  1. Rebecca Arno
    April 14, 2011

    Rich, this is an incredibly helpful list! It makes those of us who can check a lot “no’s” feel that the stress and the stretching of our brains is worth it. Thanks for always challenging us to expand our thinking.

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